Sleep apnea — a condition affecting millions of Americans — is characterized by a temporary loss of breath during sleep. Most apnea episodes last 20 to 40 seconds, but people with the condition may experience up to 100 or more episodes per night. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by physical impediments in the breathing passages that restrict air circulation; and central sleep apnea (CSA), which occurs when the brain cannot properly transmit signals to the breathing muscles.
Many people with OSA rely on positive air pressure therapy, or PAP therapy, which delivers a steady ventilation and helps. Continuous PAP machines, or CPAP machines, are bedside devices that provide pressurized air at a fixed rate throughout the night using breathing masks that connect directly to the generator. Several mask types are available. CPAP full face masks, one of the most common types, are particularly useful for people who sleep with their mouths open. Despite their name, CPAP full face masks may also be used with bi-level positive air pressure machines, or BiPAP machines, which deliver air at a variable rate and are typically prescribed to patients with CSA.
This guide will look at some general characteristics of CPAP full face masks, buying considerations, and our list of the top-rated full face mask models.
As the name implies, CPAP full face masks are designed to fit snugly over the user’s nose and mouth. Most full face masks feature five primary components:
- The frame, which refers to the breathing apparatus.
- The cushion, which refers to the membrane around the frame that creates a more comfortable fit for the wearer.
- The elbow port, so named because it is shaped in a right angle, is an opening that attaches to the connective hose leading to the generator.
- The headgear, which refers to the straps used to secure the frame to the wearer’s head.
An airtight seal is required over the nose and mouth for effective air delivery. To ensure the mask is not uncomfortable, full face masks models feature extra cushioning around the perimeter that maintains the seal while also providing a more comfortable fit. The cushion may be made from different materials, such as cloth, gel, silicone, or foam. The cushion is usually replaceable.
The elbow port may be longer or shorter. Additionally, some elbow sports may be swiveled 360 degrees; this allows the mask wearer to adjust their sleep position without compromising the connection to the hose.
Headgear straps are located at the jaw, and wrap around the back of the head to connect at the base of the neck. Additional straps may wrap around the forehead and connect in the same place; this is known as forehead support. The straps are secured with buckles, ball-and-socket joints, or hook-and-loop closures to ensure they won’t come undone during the night. Some models feature a dial that allows wearers to adjust how tight or loose the mask feels in small increments; both straps will tighten or loosen simultaneously as the dial is turned.
Full face mask frames are usually available in Small, Medium, and Large sizes to accommodate users with different facial dimensions; the headgear may be sized differently based on the size of the frame. Some models are also available in dedicated male and female designs, as well as those made for users with relatively small or wide faces. Cleaning full face masks is fairly straightforward; simply apply an alcohol wipe to the interior and exterior of the mask, as well as the straps. Never, under any circumstances, should a CPAP full face mask be washed or laundered in a machine. The cushion and complete mask should be replaced periodically (unless the cushion is not replaceable); Medicare allows users to replace the cushion every three months, and to replace the mask every six months.
It’s important to note that any type of face mask will be compatible with most CPAP machines, provided the hose offers a secure connection between the mask and the generator. Furthermore, the mask has no bearing on the airflow rate, humidifier capacity, and factors related to other components of the machine. For most, mask choice comes down to two factors: comfort and budget.
Although price-points vary and some models are available for as little as $55 to $60, most CPAP full face masks cost between $80 and $150. Please note that full face masks are only available with a doctor’s prescription.
Now let’s look at CPAP machines. Like the face masks, CPAP machines are only available with a doctor’s prescription, and cannot be purchased over the counter. If you have sleep apnea, please discuss CPAP machines and other options with your physician.
Irrespective of the mask, CPAP machines feature the following components:
- Airflow generator and fan: The generator and motorized fan are housed in a small compartment that typically measures about 10 inches long, six inches wide, and six inches high (dimensions vary by model). When the machine is turned on, the generator/fan will suck in air from the room and pressurize it.
- Humidifier: Some CPAP machines have built-in humidifiers, while other models have humidifier attachments. In either case, this component is filled with distilled water to humidify the air before it is delivered to the user. The humidifier may hold anywhere from 300 to 450 milliliters (mL) of water — but some CPAP machines do not utilize a humidifier at all.
- Air filter: The filter collects dust and other allergens to help purify the air. Filters are always replaceable — and should be replaced regularly in order to ensure the air is clean and free of contaminants
- Connective hose: This component connects the generator box to the face mask at the elbow port. It is usually made of transparent plastic, and measures five to six feet in length.
The final component is the face mask, which is sold separately from the CPAP machine.
The operating procedure for a CPAP machine is as follows:
- Place the machine on a flat, level surface that comfortably reaches the sleeper’s face using the connective hose. Never set a CPAP machine anywhere that presents a risk of falling during the night.
- To power the machine, plug it into the nearest AC outlet.
- Make sure the humidifier is filled with distilled water; top off as needed.
- Secure the connective hose to both the face mask and the generator.
- Turn on the machine; it should be ready to use immediately.
- Adjust the settings as needed during the night.
CPAP machines deliver air at a prescribed rate based on the user’s settings; a doctor can help determine the best airflow rate based on the patient’s individual apnea diagnosis. The airflow output of a CPAP machine is measured in centimeters of water, or cmH20. Apnea patients generally need an airflow rate of 6 to 14 cmH20, and most CPAP machines can deliver anywhere from 4 to 20cmH20.
Next, let’s look at how full face masks compare to other CPAP mask options.
In addition to full face masks, CPAP machine users may choose from nasal cradle and nasal pillow mask types. The table below lists similarities and differences between the four most common CPAP mask designs.
|CPAP Mask Type||Full Face||Nasal Cradle||Nasal Pillow|
|Appearance||The mask forms a seal that extends from the bridge of the nose to the bottom of the mouth||The mask forms a seal that extends from the bridge of the nose to the upper lip|
May feature a chin-strap that keeps the mouth closed
|The mask fits into both nostrils, and only covers the area between the tip of the nose and the upper lip|
|Sizing||Available in multiple sizes, as well as male and female models||Available in multiple sizes, as well as male and female models||Available in multiple sizes, as well as male and female models|
|Most Suitable for…||People who require high-pressure air delivery|
People who breathe through their mouth
|People who require high-pressure air delivery|
People who toss and turn in their sleep
|People who do not require high-pressure air delivery|
People who feel uncomfortable wearing a larger, bulkier mask, as well as those with facial hair
|May Not Be Suitable for…||Side- or stomach-sleepers (due to the bulky design)|
People who wear glasses or have facial hair
|People who breathe through their mouth|
People with allergies (blocked sinuses can impact the CPAP delivery)
|People who need CPAP therapy on high-pressure settings|
People who do not normally breathe out of their nose
|Pros||Secure straps keep the mask in place if the wearer tosses and turns|
Good option for people who have trouble breathing through their nose
|Most effective nasal mask for high-pressure air output (14 cmH20 or higher)|
Best design for side-sleepers
|Less expensive than other mask options|
Lightest and least invasive mask type
|Cons||Most expensive mask option (on average)|
Too bulky and heavy for some
|Can cause irritation in the areas around the face fitting|
Not suitable for mouth breathers unless a chin-strap is used
|High discomfort potential on high-pressure CPAP settings|
Direct air pressure may cause nasal dryness or nosebleeds
|Average Price-point||$80 to $150||$80 to $110||$50 to $75|
When comparing different CPAP full face mask brands and models, here are a few important factors to keep in mind:
- What kind of sleep apnea do you have? Although some people with central sleep apnea (CSA) may respond well to CPAP therapy, most of these patients fare better with bi-level positive air pressure, or BiPAP; unlike CPAP machines, which deliver air at a prescribed rate, BiPAP machines deliver air at a variable rate that adjusts to the user’s breathing patterns. Those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), on the other hand, typically respond better to CPAP therapy than BiPAP therapy. Please note that CPAP masks are compatible with most BiPAP machines, as well.
- What is your prescribed air pressure setting? CPAP full face masks are suitable for all air pressure settings, although those who require low pressure may find that nasal bridge masks are less invasive (and cheaper) than full face masks.
- What is your budget? CPAP full face masks tend to be more expensive than nasal masks, and usually cost at least $80 (although select models may be sold for as little as $60 or less). This baseline price is comparable to that of nasal cradle masks, but higher than that of nasal pillows. If you are on a smaller budget, then a nasal pillow mask may be the best option.
- What sizes are available? Most CPAP full face masks are available in three standard sizes: Small, Medium, and Large. Additionally, some models are available in ‘for him’ and ‘for her’ sizes. Please note that some full face masks feature the same headgear dimensions regardless of the mask size, while others will feature larger headgear for larger sizes.
- How is the headgear secured? Most full face masks straps feature hook-and-loop closures, which are commonly found on shoes. However, these closures come undone more easily and may not be secure enough for some users. Alternatively, models may feature buckles that are adjusted using dials that tighten or loosen the forehead and jaw straps at the same time. Buckles may be too tight for some, but offer more security.
- Is headgear included with the mask? Most full face masks include all essential straps, but in some cases the headgear will be sold separately.
- Does the full face mask offer forehead support? Forehead support refers to the strap that wraps around both temples and attaches to the other strap behind the head. Most full face masks feature this component, but some do not. One downside to forehead support is that is can limit the wearer’s line of sight.
- Does the headgear feature ‘quick clips’? Quick clips affix the side straps to the mask frame, and allow the user to easily remove the mask without unbuckling or unfastening the straps. Not all CPAP full face masks feature quick clips.
- What is the cushioning material? The cushion of most full face masks is made from silicone, but other materials like cloth, gel, or foam may be used. The choice between materials comes down to personal preference.
- Is the cushion replaceable? Cushions tend to deteriorate over time, and may not provide the same level of comfort and pressure relief after continuous wear. Replacing the cushion can help reduce irritation and boost comfort.
- Does the mask provide circular venting? Circular venting diffusers and can help redirect air away from the mask user and his/her sleep partner for fewer sleep disruptions.
- Does the manufacturer or retailer offer free return insurance? In the event that you are not satisfied with your CPAP full face mask, some manufacturers and retailers offer free return insurance that allows you to return the product for a full refund at no extra cost. Other manufacturers and retailers do not make this provision.
- Does the manufacturer or retailer offer a warranty? The warranty of a CPAP full face mask typically extends 90 days or more, and allows owners to replace or repair defective mask parts as needed. Some manufacturers and retailers do not offer product warranties for their CPAP full face masks. Additionally, the mask frame and headgear may be covered under different warranties.
Next let’s look at the best CPAP full face masks according to owners and customers. The following table lists information about the six top-rated full face masks. Please note that all customer satisfaction ratings are generated from authentic customer and owner experiences.
|Full Face Mask Model||AirFit F10||ComfortFull 2||FlexiFit HC431||Quattro||Simplus||Zzz-Mask|
|Manufacturer||ResMed||Philips Respironics||Fisher & Paykel||ResMed||Fisher & Paykel||PMI Probasics|
|‘Small’ and ‘Wide’ Face Sizes?||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|‘For Her’ Sizes?||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Headgear Closure||Hook-and-loop ||Quick clips||Metal snap clips||Hook-and-loop||Hook-and-loop||Quick clips|
|360° Elbow Port?||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||91% (282 customer reviews)||86% (628 customer reviews)||88% (598 customer reviews)||85% (117 customer reviews)||90% (421 customer reviews)||82% (344 customer reviews)|
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